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TinaSport Dec 28, 2006 8:33 AM

:|:|I would like to buy a camera mostly to use on a soccer field. My need is a camera that has good zoom to acompanny all actions, and lens stabilization (I use a panasonic fz20), but that I could also use in low light (night games) and at higher ISOs.

While the FZ20 is excellent in good day light, it is pretty bad indoors and at low light and higher ISOs. Could someone PLEASE help me to find a better option??? Thanks a lot!

O.S. Dec 28, 2006 9:11 AM

you need a DSLR, there is no better way to get decent pictures indors.
I faced the same issue and I got myself a used Rebel 300d two years ago.
Canon DSLRs are excelent for indoor sports. I thought of switching to Nikon recently as an upgrade but after testing Canon 30d, my Canon 300d, Nikon d80 and Nikon d200 at a local store I found that the noise performance at higher ISO is better on Canon bodies. So as a suggestion - look at DSLRs, and consider buying an external flash if you are allowed to use it.
The cameras you should look at are -
1. used Canon 20d (excelent camera, pretty much the same as the current 30d)
2. Canon 30d - a smlaest upgrade to 20d , same sensor, same focus system same image processor.
3. Canon XT (350) or XTi (400) pretty much same noise poerformance as 20d and 30d
4. Nikon d40 - small, very little noise at high ISO
5. Nikon d80
6. Nikon d200

once you decide on the system (canon or nikon as there is not really any other choice if we are talking high ISO noise performance) you will have to decide what lens to get, and what flash

then you will be all set to shoot sports day or night or indoors and get decent photographs.

flippedgazelle Dec 28, 2006 9:19 AM

What's your budget? The best camera for what you would like to do would be a DSLR.

The best non-DSLR for capturing action would be the Fuji S6000fd, I guess, since it allows you to wrangle usable photos at higher ISO and any other camera, which means you can use a faster shutter to help "freeze" the action. I am assuming you want a super-zoom of some sort, and I love my S6000fd's 28mm-300mm range. It doesn't have IS, though.

You could also check out the Sony H2/H5, which have IS, and although they don't have nearly as good high-ISO performance as the Fuji, in outdoor daylight conditions you may still be able to "freeze" action with a shutter of 1/400 at ISO 100. I believe the Sony's lens range is something like 36mm-432mm, so you loose wide-angle versus the Fuji but gain zoom.

I hope this answer tides you over until the more knowledgeable folks around here find your post!

TinaSport Dec 28, 2006 10:47 AM

O.S. Thank you for trying to help. Do the cameras you mentioned have super zoom?

TinaSport Dec 28, 2006 10:49 AM

Thank you Flip. I am prepared to spend around U$600. Does your Fuji have good zoom?

O.S. Dec 28, 2006 10:59 AM

the cameras I mentioned are all DSLR ... which means you can buy whatever lens you like for them. Wide, long, superzoom, you name it.
Nikon cameras can use the super zoom Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens (11 or so zoom) which is supposed to be sharp and gets very good reviews.
Canon has similar options.
what you will need to do is go to a store, take some shots with each camera and and some long lens. I would avoid Sigma 18-200 and Tamron 18-200 for your purpose as they do not focus fast enough and I did not like them myself :)... but you might.

there are plenty of choices of lens for you. go to Canon Lens and Nikon Lens forums and ask for oppinions. then go and test what people suggested. Pick what you think works best for you and go and take some pictures at a game will quickly know if your choice of camera and lens does the job.
the great thing about DSLRs - you are not stuck with one lens, you can change them based on what you are shooting ... small indoor spaces versus large outdoor soccer fields. There are lens that can cover both and do a decent job and there are lens that can do amazing job at one of the tasks.

JohnG Dec 28, 2006 11:33 AM


If the primary purpose of the camera is to take sports photos and if you want to take photos at night then to get good shots you need a DSLR.

You can get acceptable shots from a digicam during day games - not great shots, but acceptable. At night games you won't get even acceptable shots from any digicam on the market.

Yes the fuji s6000 has decent high iso performance for a digicam - but it has limited reach (for things like soccer), and there is more to sports shooting than just acceptable ISO 1600 images - focus speed, frame rate, shutter lag, servo focus ability, shallow DOF - these are all other components of good sports shooting - and all areas that digicams suffer greatly in comparison to DSLRs.

But,there is a downside - DSLRs are heavier, you need multiple lenses (there is no single all-sport lens), you'll spend a lot more $$$$ on a DSLR if you want decent sports images. And, capturing good sports photos is tough work - having the right tools is a necessary requirement to producing good sports photos but it isn't a gaurantee. There is a lot to learn and it requires a lot of practice to get better. And, post processing is a large part of the process. So, do not be fooled by non-sports shooters or by Canon's advertisements that you can buy a DSLR and kit lens and you'll just snap off great sports shots.

So, what am i saying? I'm saying a DSLR is the only way you're going to get night sports shots at all - and it's the best way to get a large number of quality day shots. But, only if paired with the right lenses for the job and only if you're willing to put the time and practice in to learn sports photography. If you aren't willing to put that time in, then buying a DSLR is a waste of money.

Let me give you some specifics regarding what I'm talking about:

Let's take soccer: the field size will determine how much focal length you need. Little kids, a 70-200mm lens mounted on a DSLR (200mm becomes 300 or 320mm) is good enough. Full size soccer field you need a 300mm (450-480mm equivelent) lens at a minimum.

Now, add in low light, night games - that mean's you need a lens capable of 2.8 aperture throughout the zoom. So, the Nikon 18-200 is out the door (great general purpose lens - just not a good sports lens). You're now in the realm of a 70-200 2.8 (Sigma makes one for $800 for Nikon and Canon - used to for Pentax but I think the pentax mount on the new version of this lens is still unavailable). If you want the Canon or Nikon version that's $1100 - $1600. And remember, 200mm is really too short for full-field soccer (mounted on any of the entry level DSLRs a 200mm lens is good for sports shots out to about 25 yards - maybe 30 - if your goal is to end up cropping down tight on the action).

If you want more reach and STILL want the ability to shoot at night - the next step up is the $2200 Sigma 120-300 2.8 lens - it's the lens I use, ,and besides the cost it's a big heavy lens.

If you're nott using a 2.8 lens at night, then you are forced to use an external flash gun. It's a less expensive option, but it will get you some shots. Not as many shots because you have flash recycle times, the flash doesn't have great range and the shots you do get will be of lower quality (flash looks harsh, produces monster eyes on players at night). But, it is another option.

Now, if you want to go indoors - things become both simpler and more complex. If you're talking indoor sports at the High School or below level this means you'll need completely different lenses - what is called a 'fast prime' a prime lens is a lens that doesn't zoom at all - it maintains one constant focal length. Fast in this case means it has an aperture value of 2.0 or better. Zoom lenses aren't that fast and thus aren't' capable of good indoor sports shots in the lighting prevalant in most below-college level gyms. For basketball, volleyball etc you could start off with a 50mm 1.8 (Canon's is $80, Nikon's is $120).

Starting to get the idea? Shooting sports is complicated - low light sports even more so. The lens you use for soccer is going to be different than the lens you use for indoor sports in 90% of the cases. And, while you can get a 50mm 1.8 lens for $80 to shoot indoor basketball or volleyball, you have to spend at least $800 to get a lens capable of nighttime field sports - and even then, that $800 lens is going to be limiting for a sport like soccer (at least in football you can move along the sidelines with the line of scrimmage - you can't do that in soccer).

So, if your goal was simply to get better day-time soccer shots there would be some easy answers. But your goals incluce night time soccer and indoor sports - so there is NO digicam solution and no one-size-fits-all DSLR solution.

The question now becomes: how badly do you want to shoot sports. There are some good sports shooters here that can help you out, but for your goals you'll be wasting your money or have to restrict your goals (to say indoor sports only or daytime outdoor sports only) if you only go part way. And by part way I mean both in equipment you get and in how much time you put into learning technique and post processing.

After all this you may decide to stick with just daytime shooting - that's OK too, people here can help with that as well. Let us know which way you're leaning.

JohnG Dec 28, 2006 11:49 AM

TinaSport wrote:

Thank you Flip. I am prepared to spend around U$600. Does your Fuji have good zoom?
Tina, just re-read this. You're not going to be able to shoot nighttime sports for $600. Indoor sports is possible with DSLR and inexpensive 50mm 1.8 lens. But the Fuji is not going to be capable of either of these activities (unless you have at least Division I college facilities and even then the results will not be fantastic).

And even for day time games - remember that 300mm equiv lens on the Fuji is really only good for 25-30 yards of coverage if your goal is to crop tight to the action. If your goal is to get general shots of the field of play without details of individuals then of course you can shoot longer.

My advice is to seek out sample photos from any camera recommendation made. There are a lot of people out there shooting sports. If you can't find sample photos of sports with a given camera, that should probably tell you something (either it's unproven new technology or people chose a different camera for their sports shooting). In either case, if you buy a camera without seeing photographs of how it performs you're taking your chances and risk wasting your money.

rfortson Dec 28, 2006 11:52 AM

Check out this link to some hockey shots taken with an old manual focus zoom purchased on ebay for $35. If you're satisfied with these types of shots, then you can get by for a lot less.

I've personally taken some shots indoors at an NBA game with a slow consumer zoom and I was satisfied with them. If they were shots of my kid, I'd be happy. Now, I'm not going to sell them to the Sports Illustrated or the paper, but they are certainly usable to me.

I guess my point is that if you want to do it right, you have to spend big bucks. However, a dSLR and a decent zoom will still give you pretty good results, certainly better than any P&S camera. Just make sure the results are acceptable to you.

As for high ISO images, many dSLRs take good images at ISO1600. Actually, the 6MP cameras may be a little better at higher ISO since the 10MP cameras use the same sensor as the 6MP cameras. They just squeeze more pixels onto the sensor, meaning less space to capture light and therefore more noise.


Edited to address JohnG's comment below, plus to add another big caveat

As JohnG rightly states below, the lighting in professionalarenas is much better than what you'll see in HS gyms, but you can get closer there, so that may help in some situations. Also, the shots I posted look okay at less than full resolution. If you're going to post them on the web or print 4x6 or 5x7, you should be happy. Going to 8x10 or larger, or doing extensive cropping will show up the faults with (relatively) cheap zoom lenses.

JohnG Dec 28, 2006 12:33 PM

rfortson wrote:

I've personally taken some shots indoors at an NBA game with a slow consumer zoom and I was satisfied with them. If they were shots of my kid, I'd be happy.

Unfortunately kids don't play in NBA arenas. Believe me, I wish they did. So while you are correct - given good seats you can get acceptable NBA shots. The lighting in high school and below level gyms is MUCH worse - about 3-4 stops worth.

So let me re-phrase my suggestion to the OP - look for shots IN THE SAME SHOOTING SITUATIONS you will be in. Lighting in pro stadiums and arenas is vastly superior to what you're likely to encounter in shooting your kids (unless your kid is in the NBA in which case he can buy you all the gear you need :G).

Here's a shot from a high school level gym.

That shot was taken with ISO 1600, 1/400 and aperture of 1.8.

1/400 is the slowest shutter speed that will freeze body motion in most instances - you still have hand and ball movement. By 1/250 you get unacceptable motion blur for many instances. Even a 2.8 lens would have produced a 1/160 shutter speed - way too slow to stop the action.

Now, another gym I shoot at, I can get f2.2 - and 1/400. Which means a 2.8 lens at ISO 1600 would get shutter speeds of 1/250 - still too slow - unless you just want a picture of your child standing on the court.

Besides, when your spending $600 - is your expectation to get just 1 or 2 usable shots? Again, if the camera was for something else then OK. But when you state the primary purpose is sports shooting I don't think getting 1 or 2 usable shots is a good payback for $600.

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